Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has adopted a forceful tone in her statements about Alberta’s scheme to pull out of the Canada Pension Plan (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

When we heard Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner say yesterday he’s encouraged to hear that the federal government will ask the Government of Canada’s chief actuary to determine how much cash Alberta would actually get if it were to pull out of the Canada Pension Plan, we could predict with reasonable confidence he won’t be particularly pleased when Assia Billig submits her report. 

Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner (Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

In a statement by the federal finance minister after the special meeting of federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers called to deal with the crisis created by Premier Danielle Smith’s scheme to pull Canadians’ retirement savings earned in Alberta out of the CPP, Chrystia Freeland stated that she “would ask the Chief Actuary to provide an estimate of the asset transfer based on a reasonable interpretation in the CPP legislation.” (Emphasis added.) 

No matter how you spin it, virtually everyone in Canada understands that the infamous Lifeworks report prepared for the UCP government that concluded Alberta should get a whopping 53 per cent of the CPP investment fund is not a reasonable interpretation. 

So everyone understands that Ms. Billig’s final number will be considerably – possibly dramatically – lower than Lifeworks’ fantasy number, which has been soundly debunked by a raft of experts. 

It is also politically impossible, as every provincial, territorial and federal politician in the country well understands – including, presumably, the separatist cabal so influential in the UCP that has ginned up this crisis to advance its independence agenda. Canadians in every province would be furious if they were told Alberta was walking off with more than half of their retirement fund. 

It is an as-yet-unsolved mystery how a respectable actuarial and benefit consulting firm came up with such a preposterous conclusion. It’s suspicious, shall we say, that the Alberta Government has taken measures to ensure no one can ask the report’s author what he or she was thinking by refusing to reveal his or her identity.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith (Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Lifeworks, as Mr. Horner noted, presumably in a tip of the hat to the former Liberal finance minister, was previously known as Morneau Shepell. Nowadays, it is a division of Telus Health, a company most often associated with the controversial and now defunct Babylon tele-health app so beloved by the UCP. 

The chief actuary’s final number, of course, will undoubtedly prompt a series of conspiracy theories from the hordes of mysterious social media bots that seem to appear out of nowhere whenever a UCP policy runs into public opposition. Indeed, they were buzzing like wasps last night on this very topic. 

Nevertheless, this is an excellent issue for the federal Liberals, seemingly on the ropes, to portray themselves as the defenders of Canadians in all provinces outside Quebec who are frightened by the harm Alberta proposes to do to the national pension plan and their own retirements. 

This undoubtedly explains the forceful tone of Ms. Freeland’s short statement and her vow that “we will always stand up for the Canada Pension Plan and the secure and dignified retirement it provides to all Canadians.”

Mr. Horner’s response was misleading in several ways. It is highly doubtful the UCP’s attempted hijacking of the CPP fund is being sensitively planned with the retirement of other Canadians in mind, as he suggested. Indeed, it seems likely, the opposite is quite possible

Assia Billig, chief actuary of the Government of Canada (Photo: Benefits Canada).

Nor is it true that “Alberta has been having an open discussion about the possibility of establishing an Alberta Pension Plan.” On the contrary, Albertans have been inundated with intentionally misleading advertising paid for with their own tax dollars to persuade they to swallow the bait. The process is opaque and manipulative. 

As for Mr. Horner’s claim “this will only happen if Albertans vote to do so in a referendum,” rumours abound that if the UCP loses the referendum, or even if it doesn’t hold one, that the Smith Government intends to proclaim it has consulted enough and push ahead with the scheme regardless. 

The second bill on the government’s agenda in the session of the Legislature that opened Monday, the tendentiously named Pension Protection Act, says Albertans will get to ratify the pension-exit idea in a referendum, but does not require the government to accept the referendum’s result. Needless to say, this troubles many.

The rest of Mr. Horner’s statement is mostly Ottawa bashing rhetoric typical of the UCP.

The Office of the Chief Actuary is an independent unit within federal Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. It provides a range of actuarial valuation and advisory services to the Government of Canada.

Interest high as UCP AGM begins

The UCP’s annual general meeting started last night in Calgary. Unusually for a political party’s AGM, there is intense outside interest in the outcome of the vote for party directors, as it is widely expected the extremist Take Back Alberta faction will try to complete its takeover of the board. 

But even in the event the board comes to be totally dominated by TBA, the jury remains out on how much influence it will have on the party’s legislative caucus.

As with any political party, the predictable policy resolutions on the agenda  – many of them extremist claptrap – do not have to be adopted by MLAs. This is why old party resolutions never die, they just come to pass. 

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  1. The UCP are being very dishonest, about the whole provincial pension plan affair, but they still want to ram it through. It is indeed a risky venture, and the results of AIMCo proved that, with $4 billion of pension money disappearing, and two instances where the Heritage Savings Trust Fund lost money, totalling over $2 billion. This is not going to be pretty, when Albertans end up with the inability to retire. The UCP have a Pension Protection Act, but this is meaningless. If Albertans were warned about how bad the UCP were to begin with, and they didn’t listen, who is to blame for that? It’s going to be a very rough four years, and this TBA garbage will compound it.

  2. The UCP’s strongest case for leaving the CPP really rests on having a somewhat credible claim to a disproportionate share of the CPP fund. So far, Albertans are not buying this.

    On a somewhat related note, the phone company owned health consulting business, whose parent is neither based in Alberta nor with most of its customers here, would be wise to start to distance itself from its own questionable study. I don’t think the UCP can offer it lucrative enough contracts to offset the future damage I see may happen to its brand and its name. Fortunately, at least I’m not a shareholder of anything called Telus.

    So Freeland’s strategy is fairly simple and clear here. First, have politicians, who are not trusted much avoid geting into a debate on numbers and second set up a process for someone credible to come up with more realistic numbers.

    If Alberta just gets its share of the CPP, it will not be able to offer considerably lower contributions to an Alberta Pension Plan. At least, not enough to offset the additional risks that include potential political interference, geographic concentration of investments and less ability to get good returns due to smaller size. While it is still true Alberta has a younger population, all it could take is another downturn in oil prices to cause lots of younger workers to start to leave Alberta again.

    So, I see this CPP fight not ending well for Smith or possibly Telus.

    1. Alberta does not have a share of the CPP. The more people undertsand this simple concept, the quicker the TBA house of cards will fall.

      1. To paraphrase, nobody ever went broke underestimating the ignorance of Albertans. I am still, however, somewhat taken aback by the degree to which many Albertans who should know better fail to grasp the simplest concepts underlying the tax and benefit flows in this country. Fifty years of the kooky propaganda within the province has clearly had a profound effect. I recently got a mail-out from my MP in which she expresses her profound concern over the commie regulation of the sale of quack cures and the resulting limitations on the capacity for Albertans to obtain their patent medicines, and for entrepreneurs to get rich off the sale of such catholicons. There’s one born every minute, literally, in Alberta.

        1. Murphy– my sister got one as well from her local rep, and since it was about the “natural health remedies ” , I wonder if it has anything to do with a certain unemployed minister whose “family business ” is being affected by those pesky health authorities, aka gatekeepers?? Someone hollering, again , about how expensive labels are…..sure !

      2. Cool Xenu: You are correct. The UCP, and their minions don’t understand that. It’s something that individuals pay into, not the province(s). Much like the equalization payment issue, people can get lost on how it operates. Alberta doesn’t cut a check and mail it away to Ottawa, or Quebec, or any other part of the nation. Taxpayers exist in all the provinces, and Alberta can’t just cut off something that it doesn’t administer.

  3. The current conspiracy theory floating around is that the CPP is empty and collapsed flatter than the Alberta Heritage Fund.

    Where did the money go? Oh, probably its hundreds of billions have been funnelled off into, either, the Trudeau Foundation or Geo. Soro’s piggy bank. In any case, the nonsense is getting to be really impressive.

    One wonders if a government in some disarray, like PMJT PMO, can withstand must more of the crazy? The recent poorly planned and executed carve-out of home heating oil users in Atlantic Canada from the carbon levy is having it disastrous effect on the Liberal caucus. It seems few, in any MPs even saw the exemption coming, or even knew about it when it was announced. And it’s likely that Minister Steven Guilbeault maybe didn’t know about it, either. So, he had to scramble to come up with some kind of spin to save his hide. Trudeau’s spat of bad luck has turned into one self-inflicted wound after another. The vote on Monday concerning the carbon tax will be one of interest. Trudeau might raise the stakes to make it a motion of confidence, thus breaking the NDP’s will to side with the CONs on the motion. And if the NDP decide to pull the trigger, it’s like that Le Bloc will step in and save Trudeau’s hide. If that’s the case, Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet should be considered for an Order of Canada, with a knight’s cross and oak leaf clusters.

    As for TBA, I have know doubt they will push that much further into controlling the UCP. At this point, it’s all about David Parker realizing his Napoleonic ambitions, and getting more of those sweet, sweet fundraising dollars.

    1. Hmmm…if the CPP is broke, how is Smith going to get her claws on $334 billion? Oh, the insanities of the Qanon Con mind….

  4. Seeing as CPP belongs to Canadian workers, maybe they should give each individual contributor their own accurate amount. Not a lump sum to the government but actually an accurate amount to each and every individual who is due a share of the fund.

    1. JS bow valley…..sounds simple enough, “IF” people stayed at the same job for their entire career, in the same province.
      Myself and 3 family members have worked in at least 3 provinces , and at different times over space of 15+ yrs, the poor young lady that had her computer shut down trying to do my application for my CPP, will be nothing compared to what those poor souls would have to go through figuring out everyone’s separate files. You have to consider 20million + people that are currently working in Canada, plus all the retirees(?#) If you go by the #s on the AB site, it says there are 2+ million **, working in Alberta ,and just how long that would take to process.

      ** if I seem skeptical about those numbers, it’s because on the news, they stated that only 17,000 new jobs had been created in Canada in Oct, yet DS posted on X , that Alberta had created 38.000 in Oct..
      (Yes, I know Rob, fake news !!)

      Not only that, you would have to set some kind of a time frame, ie. how much you are owed today or supposedly if and when you retire, (which is subject to the whims of certain political parties it seems, so is that at 65, 67, 70). DSucp , is going to be over her head in numbers just TRYING to get a number for Alberta…..if she ever figures out —“What is your definition of an Albertan ?”
      I really wish someone would ask her.

  5. I agree that regardless of the feedback or referendum results the UCP will push through with an Alberta Pension Plan. They will spin their UCP filter to only talk about those that agree and ignore all the opposition. This is already very clear in their latest comments. The one I thought was during question period the other day, when a NDP mla asked why the UCP was moving forward with an APP when even the federal Conservative Leader was opposed to such a plan. The Finance Minister’s response was “we are not affiliated with them”. So looks like the UCP needs to change their name and remove Conservative from their handle.

  6. “They aren’t competent at much of anything when it comes to governing anymore but they are very good at tearing things down and causing chaos, destabilizing everything they touch.”

    This is actually from a salon.com piece on MAGA preparations for a prospective second Trump term, but it could apply equally to the malignant clown show currently being presided over by Danielle Smith at the Alberta legislature.

    1. Jim, I’m convinced it’s the modus operandi of the Republican Party, and more and more the Conservative Party of Canada. Likewise provincial Con parties, of which the so-United Conservative Party is an extreme case.

  7. Why can’t some adult somewhere dispel this myth that Alberta deserves more dough because of its traditionally higher salaries? The YMPE will be $66,600 for 2023, so earnings over that are not relevant to your contribution to the fund. Hello welders and millionaires…..we don’t care what you make above the YMPE.

    In fact higher post-retirement income can lead to your good old OAS clawback.

    Nice pun, DJC, in your last sentence. At least a firm 7 out of 10.

    1. Sorry, YYC Lefty, facts don’t matter to Smith and her fanboys. Likewise Smith’s enablers in the TBA and Free Alberta Fantasy cabals. Their thing is “truthiness”—”if it feels right, it IS right. So there!”

  8. There was an alarm about rats being discovered in Calgary but it just turned out to be the TBA/UCP AGM.

  9. Who are the authors of the Lifeworks Report and more importantly, what are their credentials giving credence to the conclusions they draw in the report?

  10. While the question of what proportion of the CPP investment fund a property new Alberta provincial pension plan might be entitled to is an important one which deserves a credible objective answer, it’s also beside the point.

    The most important question is, do Alberta workers and retirees really and truly want to withdraw from one of the best-managed, most-secure, and most reliable national public pension plans in the world? The answer for most, I’m guessing, is no, never, not under any circumstances, regardless of what the “numbers” say.

    That’s what we need to be talking about. Part of winning a battle is choosing the battleground, and debating these numbers is ceding the ground to Daniellezebub.

  11. “Don’t you think she looks tired?” — Dr. Who

    Perhaps Danielle Smith could benefit from the purported metaphysical properties of Baltic amber: emotional healing, calming, balance.

  12. Some provincial ministers taking part in the discussion with Chrystia Freeland tried to derail the discussion into “the carbon tax”, best enunciated in the Preston Manning screech. Fortunately, the federal finance minister did not fall for that.

    Clearly the destruction of the CPP is being used as a weapon by the likes of Nate Horner and his Conservative counterparts to get at their favorite cause. Now we know. They want to destroy the CPP for political gain, regardless of the negative impact on all Canadians who contribute to it. It’s pure spite, power for power’s sake, megalomania. Here Nate Horner reveals the thinly-disguised reason for all the unreasonableness by these tantrum-throwing toddlers. There is no sound argument for pulling Albertans out of the CPP. It’s all about the lust for power and control. In other words, “You want to talk about the CPP? Well, the carbon tax!”


  13. “…no one can ask the report’s author what he or she was thinking by refusing to reveal his or her identity”.

    This is an issue that has gotten way to little attention in the media and among politicians. This is highly, highly unusual for a report by a private business, paid for by taxpayers, to redact the name of the report’s author(s) for personal confidentiality reasons. It suggests to me that the author(s) know that this report is bulls**t and doesn’t want to take any responsibility for their work. As you say, David, this does not look good on Telus or the UCP. Intrepid reporters should find out who the author(s) are and get the real story behind this. Was there political pressure from the government to come up with the 53% figure? Is someone at Telus on the UCP payroll?

    I smell a big fat rat, and it isn’t the ones that they recently discovered in Calgary.

  14. did anyone happen to download the LifeWorks report soon after it was posted? I downloaded it and found there was no author’s page. Repeat: there was no attribution page to tell who wrote it. The PDF opened on the page break between the title page and the table of contents.

    I’d really like to know if there was an earlier version of the PDF with an author’s page.

  15. By now it’s obvious, at least to those who aren’t Smith fanboys or Free Alberta Fantasists, that the APP “consultations” are a badly-designed PR campaign. The purpose is not to find out “what Albertans think.” It’s to provide a fig leaf’s worth of cover when Smith shoves this agenda up our collective…anyway.

    Sadly, too many Albertans are disinformation junkies who lap up Ottawa-bashing and “you’re a victim” propaganda. Worse, Smith won’t care even if the “referendum” result is an overwhelming “NO!” She’ll push this through, at the behest of Barry Cooper and Rob Anderson. After all, Cooper is one of Smith’s U of C mentors, and the Smith & Anderson Tragedy Show need our money for gifts to the oilpatch.

    As for the LifeWorks report, I suspect that, like the McKibben “blue ribbon” panel, it was bought and paid for (the reported cost was $1.8 million, according to the Calgary Herald e-paper).

    I wonder, though, who wrote the outline. Jason Kenney sat on the report for three years, before Danielle Smith ousted him. THEN Smith released the report. Step One in the BS Blitz, accomplished.

    Bogus referendum, coming up.

    1. Mike J Danysh: You can best believe that the UCP’s referendum on the provincial pension plan will be bogus. I would not partake in it. The wording of it will be very confusing and very tricky. So far everything the UCP is doing with pushing the provincial pension plan is based on deceptions, inaccurate figures, a very one sided survey, that does not even ask Albertans if they want it and has no limits on individual summissions, advertisements that make it look like it’s a good thing, a lack of proper consultation with the public, and federal government bashing. There are so many obvious glitches with a provincial pension plan for Alberta, but the UCP will have none of that. The UCP has intentions that aren’t in the best interests of retirees, and once Alberta gets a provincial pension plan, it can never return to the CPP.

  16. Smith wants a huge chunk of the CPP does she? I’d like that much money also but reality says that is not going to happen. How Smith and Co. came to the amount, well who knows and who figured it out, they won’t tell. That stinks on ice. Are we to trust Smith and company.
    I contributed to CPP for my entire working career. Now I’m sent a cheque every month and along with my employer pension, I’m doing fine. Would I want B.C. to pull a “Smith”, not so much.

    Its not like Alberta has done a good job of looking after their savings. didn’t Premier Lougheed not have a savings account for the province and the money just went…….
    What happens if Smith and Co. blow the whole cheque at their version of a casino? If people in Alberta were to loose their pensions, could they move to B.C. or Sask. and collect there? What happens when a federal worker moves to Alberta? what happens when an RCMP officer is moved to Alberta and then moved to B.C. and Smith and Co. have blown the whole wad?

    Given my money is in the plan and Smith’s idea could well result in a negative impact on me and all others, we ought to have a say.
    If Smith wants Alberta to leave the CPP, let them leave, we are keeping the money she wants. Albertans who paid into CPP can apply for a pension when they retire because they’ll need it. Smith and Co. will have blown all the money, most likely on some oil adventure or creating “jobs”.

    Ms. Freeland is just the person to tell Smith you can leave, but the money stays. CPP is a plan all Canadians benefit from, one way or another. It was a huge win for Candians when the plan was established. Why should one not so bright premier have the right to destroy something which has worked reasonably well for decades.

    I suspect Smith wants the money for the next election to demonstrate Alberta has a surplus. Living in B.C. for 73 years, I’ve seen my share of creative book keeping.

    For those who argue Quebec has a seperate plan, yes they do. They did it when CPP was created. Quebec has usually been a tad more careful with their money and do offer other social benefits not seen in other parts of Canada at times.

    CPP was not created for some politician to use as a pggy bank they can raid for politican purposes. Smith can go f… herself.

  17. I think the federal leader of the opposition is against the APP because he wants AB to stay in Canada and probably thinks that going to an APP is the first step to AB separating from Canada. Right now he would lose 30 CPC seats and probably lose the chance of ever forming a majority federal government.

  18. In the aftermath of the UCP AGM, David Parker’s declaration that the UCP is bigger and better than where Kenney left it is very telling.

    About all the convention didn’t declare was Alberta’s right to self-determination, but it’s getting there. And it looks like that, despite the best efforts of Stephen Harper, who was present as in an observer, I wonder what he thought of the rising strength of TBA in the UCP? He warned against this sort of thing.

    The next step for Parker will be to spread TBA to all provinces, and in doing so build his influence. At the moment, it’s pretty clear that Parker is the Alberta premier in all but name only.

    1. Just me– considering that Parker worked for SHarper,then Erin O’Tooles campaign, I was not in the least surprised that he was at the meeting.
      It was Frank Hickey, that I find interesting….*Alignable*
      Concord Mortgage Group.

  19. WOKE up this morning to read the news Smith wants to build a rail road from Calgary to Banff and Edmonton. Its going to cost a bundle. Perhaps that is why Smith wants access to all that money in the CPP bank account–dreams of “a new tomorrow”. What else would Smith like to build? There goes the pension fund…………………

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